Thursday, September 29, 2005

It Pays To Protest

Public outrage over Wisconsin's disastrous agreement with Accenture LLP to develop the state's voter registration system already had forced changes to the contract protecting voter privacy and enabling state officials to inspect the computer source code the company writes to program the computers used for voter registration. Now it looks like public scrutiny is saving state taxpayers millions.

At this week's Elections Board meeting, Accenture spokeswoman Meg McLaughlin claimed that the company already has spent more than $20 million on the project. Under the voter-list contract, Accenture is due to receive $13.9 million for its work. In May, Elections Board director Kevin Kennedy publicly stated that he was open to giving Accenture more money. But now that possibility has been effectively closed off, thanks to public pressure. Board members now all insist that Accenture will not get a penny more than the contract calls for.

Kennedy once described the Elections Board and Accenture as "partners." The marriage appears to be on the rocks. Two weeks ago, Kennedy shot off a letter to McLaughlin pinning the blame squarely on Accenture for Wisconsin's certain failure to meet the looming January 1 federal deadline to have a working computerized voter registration system. This week, McLaughlin fired back, pointing fingers at the state and devoting eight pages to a point-by-point description of all the ways Kennedy has parted company with the truth.

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